Many tech moguls and Silcon Valley hedge fund managers believe that the way of the future is self-driving vehicles.
But this week Tesla acknowledged that a driver using the Autopilot feature was killed in a crash earlier this year, and the NHTSA is now investigating.
Consumerist said the crash actually happened in Florida in May, killing a 45-year-old Ohio man.
The crash happened when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Both Autopilot and the driver didn't notice the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied, Tesla explained in a press release Thursday. The car went under the trailer, with the trailer's bottom hitting the windshield and roof.
And now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is doing a preliminary investigation of the crash, according to Tesla.
The carmaker says this is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was in use. For all vehicles in the United States not on Autopilot, there is a fatality every 94 million miles – worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles, Tesla points out.
The Autopilot feature isn't fully autonomous – drivers are still required to keep their hands on the wheel, but it does take over some driving functions including steering, cruise control and lane changes, Consumerist explained. Tesla warns the expectation is "you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” the entire time.
The self-driving car market
But the only way people will buy into the luxury of hands-free commuting is if they feel safe.
Self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives a decade in America, according to the Atlantic, but humans are generally bad at assessing true dangers when it comes to technology.
Still, there is plenty of interest in Tesla cars in the Twin Cities.
About 200 people waited outside of the Eden Prairie Tesla dealership in March to put their name down for the company’s latest car, the Model 3. Every Tesla Model 3 comes with the beta of Autopilot installed (although you have to pay $3,000 to activate it), Tech Insider reported.